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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 07/22/2009

A Cool Summer Here, But Not Everywhere

By Andrew Freedman

* Our Full Forecast | NatCast | D.C. A Summer Sweet Spot *

Recent astronaut photograph of Mount Tambora Volcano, whose 1815 eruption was linked to the 1816 "Year Without a Summer." This year, there's no volcano to blame for the cool weather in some of the nation's most heavily populated areas. Courtesy NASA.

As I write this it is a misty and gray afternoon on the west side of Manhattan, with ragged clouds hanging so low they are obscuring New Jersey just across the Hudson River. Days like this have been common this pseudo-summer in parts of the mid-Atlantic and throughout the entire Northeast. With less than 40 days remaining in meteorological summer, the atmosphere is still showing few signs of relinquishing the unusual weather pattern that has brought generally cool and wet conditions to the D.C. area and the rest of the Northeast Corridor, while at the same time roasting parts of the South and Southwest.

The statistics are rather startling, and they justify comments that I've heard recently from passersby about how this is a year without a summer.

How does the summer weather where you are compare with the rest of the country and world? Keep reading...

Of course, weather historians know that the real "Year Without a Summer" was in 1816, after the Tambora Volcano in Indonesia erupted, sending enough ash into the atmosphere to dim the sun worldwide. (Incidentally, wouldn't "Mount Tambora" or "Tambora Volcano" make a great name for a heavy metal band?)

However, there is no volcano to blame this year for the cool weather in some of the nation's most heavily populated areas. New York's Central Park is on its way to recording its second coolest July on record, and was running 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit below normal as of Tuesday. New York has not yet recorded a 90-degree day this summer, and according to the National Weather Service, if that fails to occur by the end of this month it would be the first year since 1996 where the 90-degree mark was not reached in June or July.

Besides 1996, there are no other years on record in which that has happened.

Farther north, in Boston the story is much the same, with above-normal precipitation in June and July and temperatures far below normal. Boston has not had a 90-degree day all summer either.

Fortunately, rather than being locked into the cool air mass, Washington has been closer to the dividing zone between the cool and wet weather to the north and the warmer, more humid conditions to the south. This has brought occasional bouts of showers and thunderstorms, but also some refreshingly dry air at times, as CWG's Jason Samenow detailed yesterday. July thus far is running 3.7 degrees below average at Reagan National Airport, and 2.3 degrees below normal at Dulles.

The cool summer in the Northeast and areas of the Midwest has led some climate change contrarians to jump on the familiar "a cool day, week, or month of weather in one region means global climate change isn't happening" bandwagon, which has been repeatedly debunked.

One contrarian Web site even ran a banner headline yesterday referring to record cold in Nashville, Tenn. "Gore's hometown in Summer Shiver: Nashville's Record Cold Breaks 1877 Temp Record 'Set when Rutherford B. Hayes was President'," the headline stated. For added emphasis, a black-and-white photo of Mr. Hayes accompanied the headline.

Yet, as much as the skeptics might wish to use abnormally cool weather to disprove the theory of manmade climate change, a look at the rest of the country and the globe as a whole reveals that our cool summer is actually the exception rather than the rule. Texas, for example, has been roasting under exceptionally oppressive heat and drought conditions. Austin, the state capital, has had just two days below 100 degrees since July 1, with the month running about six degrees above normal thus far. June wasn't much cooler either.

Temperature anomalies (deviations from normal) for June 2009. Click here for larger image. Courtesy NCDC

According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C., June's combined average global land and ocean surface temperature was the second warmest on record since 1880, and world ocean surface temperatures set an all-time record high for the month (consistent with the emergence of a new El Nino event). The global land surface temperature for June 2009 was 1.26 degrees F above the 20th century average, and ranked as the sixth warmest June on record.

In fact, according to NCDC's June climate anomalies map, which resembles an old lite-brite board, the U.S. northern tier stands out as one of the few areas of cooler-than-normal conditions in the entire world during June.

Oh well. Maybe we'll have a blazing hot fall?

By Andrew Freedman  | July 22, 2009; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, Local Climate, News & Notes  
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Next: PM Update: Muggy and Mild With a Shower or Two


Based on the daily statistics compiled by, between the beginning of meteorlogical summer (June 1) through today, temperature records over the U.S. as a whole are:

* (All Temp Records): 8700
* (H) High Temperature: 1922 (22.1%)
* (HM) Highest Minimum Temperature: 2869 (33.0%)
* (L) Low Temperature: 1296 (14.9%)
* (LM) Lowest Maximum Temperature: 2613 (30.2%)

* Warm (H + HM) Records: 55.1%
* Cold (L + LM) Records: 44.9%

For Virginia and Maryland combined:

* (All Temp Records): 145
* (H) High Temperature: 13 (9.0%)
* (HM) Highest Minimum Temperature: 26 (17.9%)
* (L) Low Temperature: 27 (18.6%)
* (LM) Lowest Maximum Temperature: 79 (54.5%)

* Warm (H + HM) Records: 26,9%
* Cold (L + LM) Records: 73.1%

Clearly the warmth over the U.S. as a whole from this stand point exceeds the cold, even if not true in these parts.

Of interest is that over the U.S. it appears that warm nights (HM) occur somewhat more frequently than cool days (LM). However, over this region (VA + MD) cool days (LM) considerably exceed the number of warm nights (HM).

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | July 22, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Texas is only one of many areas experiencing record heat.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | July 22, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

SteveT - interesting data. One thing to note is that observations from the past several decades have shown a more significant increase in overnight low temperatures than in daytime highs, which is consistent with knowledge about how greenhouse gases influence the atmosphere.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | July 22, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

BTW, why do you insist on referring to a propaganda site run by the original inventor of Swift Boating as "contrarian" and "skeptic"? In case you're not familiar with the distinction between outright denial and valid skepticism, here's an excellent definition. Of course, it's only by a Canadian high school student without the resources to make big media buys, so what does she know?

Posted by: CapitalClimate | July 22, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Swift Boaters, but I've got to disagree.

Swift Boaters are nothing but a bunch of right-wing bums...and are probably the folks largely responsible for all this "much-needed-rain" whining. All that right-wingers want to do is CUT our pensions and Social Security, CUT basic transportation and other services, except for their own gas-guzzling private cars, pickup trucks, Hummers and SUV's, make sure THEY have all the guns & ammunition, and charge what the market will bear for health care and other basic services, while pumping as much greenhouse gas as they can into the atomsphere.

The world would be a far better place if True Liberals were in charge...the Obama Administration is a decent start in that direction [Putting Al Gore into power could be even better!].

Posted by: Bombo47jea | July 22, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

BTW...that's supposed to be ATMOSPHERE.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | July 22, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Steve T. and Andrew:

The higher minimum temperatures at night are not so much of a CO2 "greenhouse" indicator as they are of the Urban Heat Island Effect, which is something different altogether. Official temperatures are taken at airports, and airports large enough to have official weather observations (discounting automated AWOS/ASOS equipment)are usually in or near big cities....and the heat island.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | July 22, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse


Not withstanding the unnecessarily snide tone of your remark, point taken about the difference between denial and skepticism. Outright denial precludes valid skepticism. But where's the line - actually impenetrable wall - between the two. One cannot deny the the Earth revolves about the Sun and at the same time claim this is just honest skepticism. But, one can be justifiably skeptical that Newton's "laws" of gravity alone govern the orbital motion. Actually, they do not because of the small perturbations introduced by General Relativity.

Likewise, that the globe on average has warmed over at least the past thirty years is "unequivocal" and to argue the opposite is a conclusive symptom of denial. Likewise with the increase in levels of CO2 over the same period. There is room for rational skepticism about whether the current and prospective continued warming is largely driven by anthropogenic sources of CO2. The consensus - yes the consensus - among climate scientists is that this is the case, but with perhaps a 10% chance they might be wrong. Deniers totally preclude even the possibility - closed minded and with total certainty - that human activities are nor will contribute to climate change. To wrap themselves around with a cloak of honest skepticism is the height of the extreme arrogance conveyed by the Yiddish term, Chutzpah.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | July 22, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

According to UAH satellite data, the global temperature anomaly for June 2009 was 0.00 degrees Celsius. Very, very scary. We are all going to DIE!!!! Somebody do something, anything!! Quick!!!

According to NOAA, June 2009 was excruciatingly close to the 20th century average.

Leave it to Mr. Freedman to find the temperature outlier and then use it to try to scare people.

I wouldn't put much stock in the ground based temperature measurements. If I have time I will post some really interesting links later this evening. But here is a good link to get you going.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 22, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

The good folks over at "Watts Up With That?" spotted the NCDC temperature divergence way back in May. The article was appropriately titled "Something hinky this way comes: NCDC data starts diverging from GISS".

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 22, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

MMCarhelp: It's interesting that you bring up the Urban Heat Island effect as an example of a small-scale human influence on climate. On a conceptual level, man made climate change is the urban heat island effect writ large. They both involve human activities that prevent heat from radiating back into space. Of course, the details are different, but I find it interesting that you accept that humans influence local climate but reject that larger scale effects are possible too. Why is that?

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | July 20, 2009 10:15 PM

Andrew: Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner on this question from the other thread. I'll re-post my answer here:

Andrew: To answer your question, with the Urban Heat Island effect, it is not a CO2 build-up that keeps the city warm, but concete and asphalt, which absorbs sunlight more than open ground or water does. That, as I illustrated, is climate change on a very small scale. But, the entire planet is not covered in concrete and asphalt, and is not heating up because of the spread of cities OR human activities. Cities only affect climate in a very local, not global, basis. Mankind, at today's level of activity/technology, despite the rantings of Al Gore and other doomsday-alarmists, is simply not capable of altering world climate, short of maybe a worldwide nuclear war and fallout. In fact, one large volcano eruption has FAR more effect than all of the CO2 emitted throughout history.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | July 22, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

How many of you are familiar with the project? The project set out to inspect, photograph and document the 1,221 climate monitoring stations of the US Historical Climate Network. Anthony Watts founded the project after discussions with Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. (page 8 of the report).

Anthony Watts has published his findings and you can find them here.

---Quoting from Mr. Watts' report---

6. Findings (Pages 15 & 16)

Volunteers for the Surface Stations Project have surveyed 865 stations, more than 70 percent of the USHCN’s 1,221-station network, as of this writing. I have personally visited more than 100 stations in the states of California, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. I believe it is possible to draw factual conclusions about the state of the USHCN climate-monitoring network.

Figures 25 and 26 show locations of USHCN surface stations and those that have been surveyed and rated by the Surface Stations Project. The images make it dramatically clear that our sample is comprehensive and representative. They also show that high- and low-quality stations are well-distributed around the country.

Each station has been assigned a CRN rating based on the quality rating system provided by NOAA. We found only 3 percent of the stations surveyed meet the requirements of Class 1, while an additional 8 percent meet the requirements of Class 2. Stations that don’t qualify as Class 1 or 2 have artificial heating sources closer than 10 meters to the thermometer, a far cry from the gold standard of 100 meters. This means 89 percent – nearly 9 of 10 – of the stations surveyed produce unreliable data by NOAA’s own definition.

(to be continued in my next comment)

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 22, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

(continued from previous comment)

Twenty percent of stations were rated as Class 3, 58 percent as Class 4, and 11 percent as Class 5. Recall that a Class 3 station has an expected error greater than 1ºC, Class 4 stations have an expected error greater than 2ºC, and Class 5 stations have an expected error greater than 5ºC. These are enormous error ranges in light of the fact that climate change during the entire twentieth century is estimated to have been only 0.7º C. In other words, the reported increase in temperature during the twentieth century falls well within the margin of error for the instrument record.

Executive Summary (Page 1)

Global warming is one of the most serious issues of our times. Some experts claim the rise in temperature during the past century was “unprecedented” and proof that immediate action to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions must begin. Other experts say the warming was very modest and the case for action has yet to be made.

The reliability of data used to document temperature trends is of great importance in this debate. We can’t know for sure if global warming is a problem if we can’t trust the data.

The official record of temperatures in the continental United States comes from a network of 1,221 climate-monitoring stations overseen by the National Weather Service, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Until now, no one had ever conducted a comprehensive review of the quality of the measurement environment of those stations.

During the past few years I recruited a team of more than 650 volunteers to visually inspect and photographically document more than 860 of these temperature stations. We were shocked by what we found.

We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat. We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas.

In fact, we found that 89 percent of the stations – nearly 9 of every 10 – fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/reflecting heat source.

(to be continued in my next comment)

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 22, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

(continued from previous comment)

In other words, 9 of every 10 stations are likely reporting higher or rising temperatures because they are badly sited.

It gets worse. We observed that changes in the technology of temperature stations over time also has caused them to report a false warming trend. We found major gaps in the data record that were filled in with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors. We found that adjustments to the data by both NOAA and another government agency, NASA, cause recent temperatures to look even higher.

The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. temperature record is unreliable.

The errors in the record exceed by a wide margin the purported rise in temperature of 0.7º C (about 1.2º F) during the twentieth century. Consequently, this record should not be cited as evidence of any trend in temperature that may have occurred across the U.S. during the past century. Since the U.S. record is thought to be “the best in the world,” it follows that the global database is likely similarly compromised and unreliable.

This report presents actual photos of more than 100 temperature stations in the U.S., many of them demonstrating vividly the siting issues we found to be rampant in the network. Photographs of all 865 stations that have been surveyed so far can be found at, where station photos can be browsed by state or searched for by name.

--end quote--

No need to take anybody's word for it. Go read the report and then go to and look at the photographs. The facts speak for themselves.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 22, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: Welcome back, your comments had decreased in number for a while there, I was wondering where you had gone. While I don't think it's my role here to go through your arguments point by point, I would like to note that NOAA has responded to questions about the surface temperature record with a new sheet of talking points that it has posted on its web site. What are your thoughts on it? Thx.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | July 22, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

MMCarhelp: Thanks for your response to my question, it helped me see where you're coming from. You have an interesting mixture of skepticism about the human role on a global scale, yet acknowledgment about the human role in climate at the small scale. I'd argue that is walking a very fine, flimsy line that scientists demolished years ago with their discoveries about global climate change, but perhaps we'll have to agree to disagree on that. Thanks again for elaborating.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | July 22, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Why Mr.Q are your beloved MSU global temperatures presented now only in terms of the global average? The MSU site had been showing the actual map of the global distribution of temperature anomalies. Now all we get are the global means. The last I saw these charts they had not been updated after December 2008. It appears now that these displays have disappeared completely from UAH websites.

Could it be that I had debunked these MSU global averages because of including the erroneous cold temperatures over and around the Antarctic, which considerably offset the fact that the rest of the globe was dominated by warmth?? Please explain.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | July 23, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

SteveT and Andrew,

Is a one-sided propaganda site run by the original Swift Boater contrarian or skeptic, or is that the price you pay to get your material past the corporate media editorial bureaucracy?

Is Marion Barry a tax skeptic?

If it walks like a quack, talks like a quack, writes like a quack, and slimes like a quack, it's a quack, and Mr. Swift Boat is the Emperor of Quackistan.

Treating him and others of his ilk as anything other than trash simply lowers your own scientific credibility.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | July 24, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

In case it wasn't clear, the choice is not between contrarian and skeptic, but between those two on one side, and denialist, propagandist, pseudo-scientific, and fraudulent on the other.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | July 24, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

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